| A (Not So) Brief Defense of Christianity |
| --- Jesus Was a Man of History |
| --- Jesus Is the Unique Man of History. ||
Survival Course Manual
A (Not So) Brief Defense of Christianity
SECTION III: WHO WAS JESUS?
VIII. Jesus Was a Man of History
Having established above the overwhelming
historical reliability of the extra-biblical and biblical source
documents concerning His life, only dishonest scholarship would
lead one to the conclusion that Jesus never lived. From the
evidence, there is a high probability that He did, and we can
therefore discard the notion that He is only a mythological figure,
like Zeus or Santa Claus.
IX. Jesus Is the Unique Man of History.
But there seems to be a problem for many
with the portrayal of Jesus in the source documents. He does things
which defy our rationality. He is born of a virgin. He makes
strange statements about Himself and His mission. After years of
obscurity, He appears for a brief time in a flurry of public
ministry in a small and insignificant province of the Roman Empire.
He loves and heals and serves. He is a master teacher, but all of
His teaching points to Himself, to His identity. The following
claims which He makes concerning Himself are extraordinary.
- The Claims of Christ
- Able to forgive sins (Mark 2:5-10).
- A Healer of disease (Mark 5:21).
- Allows others to worship Him
(Matt. 14:33, 28:9; cf. also Acts 10:25,26;14:12-15).
- Claims to be "other worldly" in
origin and destiny (John 6:38).
- Performs miracles over nature
- Claims He has absolute, moral
purity (John 8:46, 2 Cor. 5:21).
- Claimed to be God, Messiah, and
the way to God (Mark 14:61,62; John 10:30; 14:6-9).
- Claimed to be the fulfillment of
all Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament (John 5:46-7; Luke
- Allowed others to call Him God and
Messiah (John 20:29; Matt. 16:15-17).
- Responding to the Claims
The wide divergence of opinion about who
Jesus really was is not based, as we have seen, on a lack of good
and adequate historical evidence; it rather comes from grappling
with His unique and audacious claims listed above.
There is no intellectually honest way to
carve up the documents according to our own liking and
philosophical preferences. Many have done this, including a great
American patriot and president, Thomas Jefferson. He admired Jesus
as a moral man, but would have nothing to do with the supernatural
elements found in the documents. Using scissors and paste, the Sage
of Monticello left on the cutting floor anything, he felt, which
contravened the laws of nature. Jefferson entitled his creation,
The Life and Morals of Jesus. Only 82 columns, or little
more than one tenth of the 700 columns in the King James Bible
remained. The other nine tenths of the gospel record were
discarded. His book ended with the words, "There laid they Jesus
(John 19:42) . . . and rolled a great stone to the door of the
sepulchre and departed (Matt. 28:60)."
One way to deal with the claims is to
remove the historical material which is offensive to us, such as
Jefferson did. The other option is to honestly accept the
historical accuracy of the documents and come up with a plausible
explanation. Our choices are reduced to one of four: He was either
a Liar, a Lunatic, a Legend, or our
- Considering the Options.
- Liar. Everything that we know
about Jesus discourages us from selecting this option. It is
incomprehensible that the One who spoke of truth and righteousness
was the greatest deceiver of history. He cannot be a great moral
teacher and a liar at the same time.
- Lunatic. Paranoid schizophrenics
do not behave as Jesus did. Their behavior is often bizarre, out of
control. They generally do not like other people and are mostly
self-absorbed. Nor do they handle pressure well. Jesus exhibits
none of these characteristics. He is kind and others-centered, and
He faces pressure situations, including the events leading to and
including His death, with composure and control.
- Legend. The greatest difficulty
with this option is the issue of time. Legends take time to
develop. Yet most of the New Testament, including Matthew, Mark,
Luke, Acts, and all of Paul's Epistles were written by 68 A.D. An
equivalent amount of time today would be the interval between
President Kennedy's assassination in 1963 to the present. For
people to start saying Kennedy claimed to be God, forgave people's
sins, and was raised from the dead would be a difficult task to
make credible. There are still too many people around who knew Jack
Kennedy . . . and know better.
In his book, Mere
Christianity, C. S. Lewis said, "A man who was merely a man and
said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral
teacher. He would either be a lunatic¾on a level with the man who
says he is a poached egg¾or else he would be the Devil of Hell.
You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of
God, or else a madman or something worse."
Other than the fact that the Liar,
Lunatic, and Legend choices are not persuasive as explanations for
who Jesus was, we are still faced with the question of why we
should accept Him as Lord.
During the latter days of His
ministry, Jesus was confronted by a hostile crowd which posed this
question to Him: "Teacher, we want to see a sign from you." Jesus
answered, "An adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no
sign shall be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for
just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the
great fish, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights
in the heart of the earth" (Matt. 12:38-40).
Here we are led to understand that
Jesus pointed to His bodily resurrection as THE authenticating sign
by which He would confirm His own unique claims. Later on, the
Apostle Paul, in speaking of the importance of this event to the
faith of a Christian would say, "If there is no resurrection of the
dead, then not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not
been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith is also vain.
. . . If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you
are still in your sins (1 Cor. 15:13-17)." We now turn to explore
the possibility of such an event occurring.